Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

A dorian: A B C D E F# G A (key of G starting on A)
D mixolydian: D E F# G A B C D (key of G starting on D)

Have I written the notes correctly? It would seem to me that since the tune resolves to A, A dorian would be the mode, but most of the transcriptions for the tune on thesession identify it as D mix. What am I missing to understand why this is so?

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

From my point of view, what’s important is the number of sharps or flats in the key signature, not the name of the key or mode. Trying to shoehorn every Irish tune into a church/Greek modes will lead to many failures or puzzles. Most would probably say the Old Bush was one or the other depending on what chords they would use to harmonise the tune, and that would suit most people’s purposes.

Regarding where the tune resolves - does it actually "resolve", or just end on A? - you might enjoy reading Tomás Ó Cannain’s discussion of "tunes with complex tonality" in his book from I think 1979 "Traditional Music in Ireland", which still seems to be available from online sellers.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

I think of it as D Mix.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Why do you think it is in D mix, Michael? And I should have asked about those many C#s sprinkled throughout both halves of the tune. Are they just passing notes? Thanks, Chet

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

It feels to me a bit like a double tonic tune - Am/D or C/D. Rakish Paddy is a double tonic tune. It’s usual to feel the second tonic, in this case D, as being the resolving tonic, if that makes any sense whatsoever.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

I guess it’s like pornography, you know it when you see it.

To me, this tune sounds and feels right with D Mix backing and odd if backed in A Dor. It’s the kind of thing where if I were playing with a guitar player and they started backing it in A Dor, I’d turn to them and say "Try D Mix".

As far as the C#s in my mind they just add "quirk", but I don’t think fundamentally change the overall key and mode.

Looking through the archives here, there seems to be general confusion about what key and modes tunes are in if they don’t start on the root. Old Bush, Rakish Paddy, Providence, etc. For this one, try playing the tune on top of a D drone and then an A drone, which one sounds "right" to you?

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Stiamh suggests that the tune simply ends on A rather than resolves to it, and the accompaniments I’ve looked at all have a D chord at the close, so perhaps that is the answer and also the explanation for why Michael Eskin thinks of it as D mix. I should get out my guitar (which I don’t play much any more) and see how the different chords feel against the melody as my question is based on the feeling of the melody alone.

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

It’s one of those tunes which start and end on something else than the home chord (and that’s fine by me!). My ears hear Am as the opening chord (also the ending chord), while the "home" chord is D.

Charlie Lennon (on a Dubliners recording - second tune - 1m10s):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOnRZ-JAWz4

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Rather than dig out my guitar, I tried Michael’s suggestion to play the tune against D and A drones. The D certainly sounds fine and perhaps better although the A drone didn’t sound horrible, perhaps because the melody returns to the note A so often. Thanks for the suggestion.

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Thanks for posting the drones, Michael. Our postings ‘crossed’ as I did the experiment myself also. My reaction this time, as a listener only, is again that the D drone sound a bit better, but that the A drone is also fine. I liked it better as a listener than I did playing against it. What are you reactions to the tune played against the two drones? I would value your reactions more than my own. This is a very mysterious business, playing modal melodies that were in all likelihood not conceived with chordal accompaniments with chords. The ears of many us are very tuned to chords even if we play melody instruments as a result of listening to ‘popular’ music as teen-agers and in the case of oldsters like me, going through a phase of playing and singing ‘folk music’ and ‘old-time’ music. There is also jazz, which is so chord-based, in our backgrounds.

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Perhaps it is partly down to how I heard the tune accompanied early on in my acquaintance with it, but I always hear it resolving to a D chord (although it does not resolve at the end of the tune). Listening to Michael Eskin’s clip with the A drone, I still hear it as being D-centred, just having the drone on the 5th instead of the root note.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

To me this ending fragment feels pretty convincing:

|afge fde^c| dfed cAFA | d4

(not as a performance suggestion, obviously)

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

cac I take it that you are an accompanist, because if not it doesn’t really matter what key it’s in.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Chet is a flute player, gooseinthenettles, so you are correct that he doesn’t really need to know what the home note is. But sometimes it’s nice to know anyway.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Bail ó Dhia oraibh!
Greetings all!

This is a very interesting discussion, with some very informative comments.

During my musical journey I have gained so much knowledge of some of the correct terminology as expressed by the so many brilliant people who share this precious dúchas, our music.
Not just here on The Session.
Everywhere!

One of the most important things is that listening is learning.

And that boils down to keeping things simple!

There might be some very gifted people who, for various reasons, wouldn’t know a Phrygian from a Dorian; does it matter to them if they know how to play, what to play, if they get it right?

If they hear the tune right, then they find it naturally.

Majors stand out there! No probs.
You hear a G, a D, for sure. In some circles, players not exposed to the keys of F and C don’t always pick it immediately.
I suppose that reflects that the majority of our repertoire lies within those two major keys…

…and those associated minors!
Not all of this area is straightforward.
For sure, a tune player needs only the tune; I accept that, but knowledge of the structure of a tune has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my playing, and sharing.

Take Banish Misfortune, one of my favourite tunes. It would be fantastic if everyone knew that it was in such and such a mode.

All I say, if someone needs to know, is D modal.
And that’s simple. It’s easy.
It implies that it’s got something different. To me that means sometimes a C or C# occurs.
Over the years, so many of my very many wonderful, incredibly generous and gifted mentors talked like this.

Our music is simple, simple in its purest sense.
Each tune has its own internal pulse, almost a heartbeat.
You DON’T need a degree to play it.

You DO need to listen!
You DO need to LEARN to listen!

I hope that you might find my comments constructive, not destructive.

Keep safe and well everyone
All the best
Brian x

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Modes contain specific notes, so why can’t the tune’s mode be derived from those notes?

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

@Jim Look at the first two lines of the original post.

If that’s not enough, consider that any of the modes can be illustrated using only the white keys of the piano. It just depends which note you start on! 😉

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

A very interesting discussion.

//Jim Look at the first two lines of the original post.

If that’s not enough, consider that any of the modes can be illustrated using only the white keys of the piano. It just depends which note you start on! //

@Stiamh, yes I did see the OP with the modes listed. I looked at the tune here, in the Tunes section, and used this one as a clean reference : https://thesession.org/tunes/1499 , 3rd setting. I ignored 1st and 2nd settings, because they both contained C#.

3rd setting - starts on A, end on A, so to me, the tonic or tonal centre would be A, and the mode is clearly mixolydian.

I’m going ONLY by the melody, but obviously accompaniment chords can make for a different overall impression of the "key".

So it’s in A mix (in my opinion).

A tune whose key bugged me for a while, was Tom Billy’s (jig). https://thesession.org/tunes/816 , setting #1. It’s in A mix, by the notation, but I first heard it played by De Dannan, and there’s a clearly audible G# in it (on the roll on the A note), all the way through, which would make in the key of A major.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Hello again

Fascinating!
Thank you Chet for your having started this discussion.
Jim, and Stiamh, where this is going now is why I wrote earlier.

In response to the tune The Old Bush, I simply don’t know what key, mode, to call it.

What I play, and always heard played this way, going back so long, goes like this (forgive my attempts at abc);

A2 GA cA A2 | dc#de f#dec |
A2 GA cA A2 | df#ed cagb |
A2 GA cA A2 | dc#de f#ef#g|
af#ge f#dec# | df#ed cagb | etc

So what does that make it?
Like I wrote earlier, I keep it simple.
For just this tune I sometimes say
A minorish or A modalish!

Now I don’t think that’s confusing.
Rather, it certainly lets a would be accompaniest know it’s different.

I can’t give it the name of a mode that doesn’t seem to sit with the tune.

With the notation I have given can someone please explain how such a mode does or might work?
I do know that spaced accompaniment seems to work.

Maybe other versions of The Old Bush can be categorised more easily, but this is how I have always played this tune as handed down to me, and most importantly, I love it this way.

Let’s not forget, this is music to be enjoyed, through playing, lilting, and dancing or listening.
When you see people tapping the table, their glasses, maybe their feet on the floor, you know that something right is happening! This tune certainly gets that going!
To me that’s what is important.

All the best
Brian x

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Irish trad tunes that are described as being in a mixolydian mode aren’t really ‘in’ that mode, they just use a scale that’s similar to a mixolydian mode, so it’s convenient to describe them in that way. one of the characteristic differences between an Irish trad ‘mixolydian’ scale and a true mixolydian mode is that the seventh often shifts between natural and flat - in the case of a D scale, between C sharp and C natural. It’s a species of blue note, like the third in Afro-American music.
Similarly, Irish trad tunes are not really ‘in’ any particular key; they just sound more or less appropriate or interesting over various different root notes and chords. I hear the Old Bush as sitting over a D; the deciding factor for me is the B part, which very plainly shifts back and forth over C and D, leading you strongly back into D for the A part. The shifting seventh adds to it too; you do get major / minor shifts in Irish music but they tend to work differently - solid shifts from one to the other rather than occasional passing notes, so that argues against playing the tune over an A.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

As I said above, it’s kind of like a double tonic tune, the C then C# giving the impression of two scales or tonalities, in this case, as JoeEvans says, C and D but the D is the home note.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Thank you all for the rich discussion — too much to comment on except that there is near consensus that the tune sits best over a D mixolydian accompaniment. Just a quick note on some of the videos posted. Jeff Lindquist posted Charlie Lennon and the Dubliners, and I agree with his hearing of the tune starting on an aminor chord and ending on one but still being over D. As Joe Evans noted, the B part, with its strong start in C and going to D strongly reinforces the D feeling. Kenny posted The Gypsy Davy, with lots of A notes and a strong D pedal bass. However I felt the tune was more clearly in D than The Old Bush. Brian, I played your version of the A part, and I would describe it myself as pure A dorian (commonly called A minor in trad), but this is without playing any chords with it. I think an intellectual understanding of the Old Bush still escapes me, but it is sure a great tune, isn’t it?

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

A similar conundrum arises with ‘Sailing into Walpole’s Marsh’ I used to play in a session where they would insist on accompanying it with A minor chords, to my great irritation! Cac, yes indeed The Old Bush is a great tune especially when played in D mix!

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

I’ll be honest I’m a piper and haven’t really got a clue about such things! That said here is absolutely my favourite version of this played on both Uilleann and Borderpipes ( D and A respectively ). I do believe that Ross ensures his drones, which are tuned in A, are off before he jumps in on the Old Bush.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McOxsUdEOjA

What a lovely reminder of what has been lost these last couple of years this video is too.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McOxsUdEOjA

Same set again with Mattheu Watson who I think is quite simply the best accompanying guitar in modern folk. I really should bookmark this one.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

For some reason I keep getting the same link not the one I actually wanted to share. Oh well so it goes

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

While everyone is discussing what key the old bush is in,what key is Rakish Paddy in.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

//Brian, I played your version of the A part, and I would describe it myself as pure A dorian (commonly called A minor in trad), but this is without playing any chords with it.

Hi cac, I go for Amix or Ador. I personally evaluate a tune’s key or mode only by the melody.

But, it’s not the only way to do it, obviously.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

For what it’s worth, gooseinthenettles, I would say that Rakish Paddy is in D. By that I mean the "home note" is D (whatever the notes in the scale).

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

//For what it’s worth, gooseinthenettles, I would say that Rakish Paddy is in D. By that I mean the "home note" is D (whatever the notes in the scale).//

Good point, Donald … and if you listen to the thrash metal Fairport Convention version, it’s D major 🙂

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

When all else fails, use your ears. It’s all how it sounds to you. Music theory doesn’t prescribe, it describes. One of the fun things about music is when it presents as ambiguous. I love it.

On a side note it’s SO TIRESOME when people chime in just to say “who cares?” Some of us care. 🤷‍♂️

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

//On a side note it’s SO TIRESOME when people chime in just to say “who cares?” Some of us care.//

@Arthur - which side note?

(Joking) 🙂

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Off the top of my head I think DonaldK is on the right track since he seems more flexible on the question than most of the other respondents. Michael Eskin & GITN are less flexible which is OK but limiting if the melody player’s intention is to experiment with various interpretations. Long story short, I’d probably very much appreciate playing "Old Bush" w/DonaldK. And worry about A dorian vs D mix {etcetera} later.

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Less flexible? OK but limiting? Various interpretations?

AB, I have no idea what you mean by your last sentence, it seems dismissive of everyone on this thread in favor of “anything goes”.

If there is no backup player and or someone playing pipes with no drones or regulators, it could said to be in Q-Flat Lydian Mode for all I care.

Add drones or a backup player and it’s another story.

Sounds way better to me with D Mixolydian backing than A Dorian even with the C/C# ambiguity.

But that’s just my take on the tune.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Well since everyone else has chipped in, I might as well too and call it clearly a Dmix tune. You can approach it from different directions. First the academic way, looking at that one sharp in the dots for most written versions and figure it’s probably either in G major, A dorian, or D mixolydian. Then use your ears.

Does it sound unambiguously major key, a happy tune? Does it sound unambiguously minor, with a dark and/or sad quality? Or does it sound *almost* like a major key tune but with a slight twist, caused by the minor seventh sneaking in here and there. To my ears it’s clearly one of those "almost major but not quite" tunes.

From there, you can either find the tonic note by ear or look at the key signature and know it’s a Dmix tune. I wouldn’t call it a double tonic just because there are both Cnat and C# notes, that’s a very common thing used for "color" in Irish tunes.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

I remember playing a gig with a piper. (I was backing him on guitar). He was telling me the keys of the tunes and every set went like this: "First one is in D, second one is in D, third one is in Aminor …actually maybe it’s in D, last one is in G but starts on a D."

Amazing what playing against a drone can do to how you hear the tonal center!

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

So did you just play a D the whole time, Matt? :D

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

I played everything in F just to piss him off. 🙂

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

I think if I had to say, I’d say it’s in D mix. But I love starting on an A chord (like just the A & E, no third) and then ending up on D. For the second part I hang out on a C chord a lot. But this is definitely one of those tunes with a lot of options.

Someone mentioned Sailing into Walpole’s Marsh earlier—that one is my nemesis. I still can’t firmly decide what key it’s in. Which is pretty cool, really.

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Michael, my intention was to comment on DonaldK’s replies not to be dismissive of others. I’m not implying "anything goes" if that is your inference about my last sentence.

Since I did mention Mr. Eskin in my reply I should respond more directly. Although this is why I began with
"off the top of my head". Here goes (still replying off the top of my head though).

To your reply, "For this one, try playing the tune on top of a D drone and then an A drone, which one sounds "right" to you?" Without sounding dismissive I would play a tune differently if the drone is different. If varying the tune (depending on the drone) doesn’t work I probably would not play it.

edit: just read matt’s reply & it’s good by me if that’s worth a dime. "I love starting on an A chord (like just the A & E, no third) and then ending up on D. For the second part I hang out on a C chord a lot. But this is definitely one of those tunes with a lot of options."

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"there are both Cnat and C# notes, that’s a very common thing used for "color" in Irish tunes."
Yes, indeed!

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Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Sorry, had very limited Internet access since Friday evening’s storm - power still not restored. The nights are long with seventeen hours of darkness.

Anyway, I think people are getting a bit too hung up on trying to pigeon hole tunes to particular scales or modes.
To me (to my ears at least) the tune here obviously has D as the tonal centre. I don’t think, if you use your ears, you need to know whether or not it’s Mixolydian. As an accompanist, I know that as soon as you start to rely on scale knowledge rather than your ears there could be potential trouble ahead.

Re: Is the Old Bush in A dorian or D mixolydian?

Putting on my occasional hat as a guitar backer, I agree that you don’t need to know the term Mixolydian if you can instinctively realize that a tune in Dmix, for example, needs a few Cnat chords. That may just come from enough experience playing the tunes. You go for those chords without knowing it’s because there’s a flat 7th in the melody. It just sounds right to your ear.

Nevertheless, it’s a useful shortcut for communication if you’re dealing with a guitarist who does understand modes, but might be struggling with backing a tune. I’m not very good at talking and playing at the same time (plus it’s impossible on the flute), so it’s easier for me to briefly yell "Dmix" than say "It’s in D with some C chords here and there." 🙂

P.S. I know an incoming response from the gang here is going to be "You shouldn’t have to tell a guitar backer what chords to use!" and I absolutely agree. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with a couple of guitarists like this. They’re worth their weight in gold, but also rare as hen’s teeth in my area. Sometimes tossing a chordal lifeline is better than the distraction of hearing poor chord choices.

Re:Back to the O.P.?

"A dorian: A B C D E F# G A (key of G starting on A)
D mixolydian: D E F# G A B C D (key of G starting on D)

Have I written the notes correctly?"

Yes, Chet, the notes are written correctly!

Yet I wouldn’t say either mode is ‘key of G…’. I just don’t go there. I never go there.

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